The Greatest Love Of All

I had a friend who routinely confessed that she just wanted to sleep with a man, any man. She didn’t mean sex, although she was “willing” to have sex with the man if it meant she could sleep in his arms.

The first time she told me this I was still married and heard her statement as a proclamation in a foreign language. I couldn’t possibly begin to understand her motivation. Once I was stabilized in my widowhood and dipping a toe into the dating waters, she said it again. It felt just as foreign to me at that point and I assumed she knew something I didn’t having been at the dating game for at least a decade. I’ve now been unmarried for a respectable amount of time (6 years) and am no closer to understanding how a stranger in my bed could be anything short of a reason to call 911.

I love going to bed and when I don’t have evening plans I skip off to my sanctuary rather early in the evening. The satin bedding (a birthday gift to myself, the first birthday there was no one to buy me presents) is turned down as are the lights. Frank Sinatra’s voice and lavender scent fill the air. Most nights the windows are open (as it is only my own body temperature that needs consideration) and a breeze blows over my toes. My 5-pound narcoleptic dog is tucked into his bed, silent and immobile for 12 hours. There is always an engaging book (usually more than one) propped open on my nightstand, and sometimes a small glass of scotch. The idea of a stranger invading that slice of heaven is horrifying. (I am delighted to share my bed with people I love, and do so from time to time. My friends Kim and Joe sleep like statues and share my king size bed (separately) whenever they visit (restless sleepers are relegated to the couch). It is a great pleasure to awake and remember someone I love is just inches away.)

I can not imagine how long it would take for a new someone to feel like a welcome addition to my sanctuary. Even if I could get past the intrusion of my tranquility I would need to contend with all the middle-aged man stuff: the snoring, the sinuses, the thrashing (I’ve been hit more times in my sleep than I care to recount), the sleep talking, the smells, the neurosis, the apnea… ‘Nough said, right? Part of me is charmed of how utterly lacking in self-consciousness these men are. A 63-year old man who has never once slept through the night without listening to A.M. radio through earphones? Bless. Another who had no compunction about looking for an outlet in which to plug his breathing machine? Cheers.

Something happens as we get older. Well, lots of things happen, but something good happens too. If we’re lucky, and I think I am, we get much more comfortable in our own selves. Our lives become less external. We are less susceptible to trends or FOMO. We know who we are, what we like, what we dislike and what we’re willing to compromise. I have always been a very private person (says the woman posting this on the internet) who actually enjoyed quiet and solitude. But for several years after my initial widowhood I was completely unmoored, “a housewife without a husband”, and looked to immerse myself in someone else’s life to regain the rhythm of a life lost. I no longer feel that way. In fact I feel much like I did when I first met my husband. Back then I was not looking to date, let alone marry. I had survived a perfect storm of personal tragedy and was doing the best I could skating atop of a very disorienting new life. I met him and blah blah blah. I’m older now by far and more settled into myself (in more ways than one, thank you gravity!) and delighted by the peace I have cultivated.

I’m not that evolved that I don’t harbor romcom fantasies. Who doesn’t dream of a cinematic romance? But losing myself in someone else’s life is not on the table nor is sharing my sanctuary with just anyone. If there is another great love in store for me, I’ll know. In the meantime I will bask in the love of my peaceful life filled with small moments of joy and enormous amounts of gratitude.

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Calendar Man

A few months ago I lost interest in dating. It’s not that I checked it off my bucket list once and for all. It’s that I lost the same interest I once had. It ceased to seem important or even worthwhile. Maybe it was the two thoroughly disheartening experiences I had in May. Maybe after over three years of it, I’ve had enough. Potato Potahto.

I still keep a hand in (not the best choice of phrases, I know) but do so in a very different manner. I sort through, looking for the one profile/person I might be able to tolerate hearing from; not date, not partner with, but hear from. I no longer consider choosing to stay home a sign of anything but self-knowledge. The world isn’t watching and my worth is not predicated on someone wanting to buy me dinner. Quite frankly I’d rather not eat than sit across from someone uninteresting or unpleasant. I am done feeling as if I’m being auditioned or worse, not being seen at all. None of us walk through life as kind and compassionate as we could be. But if you can’t treat a friend or date with interest and care, what are you doing with your life? Don’t paw me, don’t ask me to wear something sexy, don’t begin a communication (when you’ve never met me) with “hey sexy.” I am not a prude I am a person. Seeing me as a potential conquest is so dehumanizing.

I haven’t joined an order. I am still open to dating from time to time (okay, once a month) but I do so with a very different mindset. I no longer assess men’s characteristics for long-term partner worthiness. I take them as they present themselves. Does a man express interest in me (which is NOT the same, in fact often the opposite of; does he want to sleep with me!)? Does he appear to see women as equals not adversaries? Is he interesting? IS HE KIND? The intangibles are now meaningless. I don’t care where he lives, what his faith is, what ages his children are…it just comes down to; would I rather watch TV or go out with this man?

Thus far this new approach has resulted in two simply lovely dates. Both men were kind, funny, interesting and seemingly emotionally intelligent and engaged. I may see them again, I may not. But to have spent a June evening debating the appeal of Chekov and a July evening discussing gender as a social construct, all while laughing and feeling a kinship, is enough for now.